• Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it. This is his blog.

Big-time Bycatch

When it comes to food waste in the seafood industry, the key buzzword is bycatch. That term represents the creatures caught as a byproduct when fishing for another type of seafood.

And the numbers are shocking–as much as half of fish caught in the Europe are being thrown back into the ocean, dead. This bycatch occurs with a variety of methods, but fishing with large nets is the main culprit.

I’m at the Cooking For Solutions institute this week, and bycatch has come up quite a bit, most notably, in Callum Roberts talk. If it’s anything like his talk, Callum’s book, The Ocean of Life, will be a fascinating discussion of how we’ve degraded our oceans and what we can do better.

British chef/activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is also helping spread the word against fish waste. His Hugh’s Fish Fight campaign provides an avenue to take action against bycatch. Important stuff.

Given its significance, it’s a topic I wish I’d dealt with more in my book. But it is one that I’ll be paying closer attention to in the coming months.

May 18, 2012 | Posted in Environment | Comments closed

In Defense of Real Food

Here’s exhibit A on why I love farmers’ markets (and vegetable gardens). Where else is there a market for something as unique-looking as this?!

St. Paddy's Day bagel?

The conventional retail system has no use for this kind of cucumber. It’d never leave the farm. But–you’ll never believe it–this curvy cuke tasted a) like a regular cucumber and b) great.

Exhibit B:

C is for cucumber...good enough for me...

May 16, 2012 | Posted in Alphabet Produce, Farmers' Market, Personal | Comments closed

AntarctiCan You Believe How Far They Ship Waste?

What’s Antarctican food waste doing in Spokane? Why, it’s being burned, of course.

Apparently, life on Antarctica is like camping–pack it in, pack it out. Not being able to dig a hole (to build a landfill) and having to follow the Arctic Treaty, Antarctic researchers have to send all of their refuse elsewhere. Most everything is recycled, and then there’s the food waste.

The government contractor charged with this cleanup task, recently sent 300 tons of food waste all the way to an incinerator in Spokane, Wash. Sorry, I meant to say it goes to a (euphemism alert!) waste-to-energy facility.

It seems a bit odd to pay a whopping $165 per ton to burn food waste when composting or anaerobic digestion (true waste-to-energy) would be more economical and environmental. And did anyone even look into feeding food scraps to penguins??

But, if that were the case, that food waste wouldn’t get the chance to burn alongside confiscated drugs and other seized goods. So there’s that…

May 14, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Energy, Environment, Waste Stream | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

A Washington supermarket has an on-site contraption that converts food waste into liquid fertilizer. Organics alchemy, in action!
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The 42 million pounds of food that Forgotten Harvest will recover this year is…a lot. The most, actually.

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Piles of Indian wheat rotting by the side of the road? What a shame; what a disaster.

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On Wednesday, I posted a picture of a mysterious bit of produce. Some people guessed correctly that it was…a carrot! But a weird one at that.

It was actually a volunteer carrot that soldiered through the winter. I found it in the one neglected raised bed in my yard, the plant miraculously poking through a hole in a planter, which had apparently provided shelter from the freezing temperatures.

But honestly–it tasted really good! I had some raw and some mixed into an Asian stir-fry.
Now, the turnip that wintered in the same raised bed…that was less tasty. Some more pics, of the most mutated carrot I’ve ever seen.

May 11, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Food Recovery, Friday Buffet, General, Personal, Supermarket | Comments closed

Wednesday Quiz

What are you looking at?

Leave your guess as a comment. And yes, it was edible.

May 9, 2012 | Posted in Household, Personal | Comments closed

Bay State Bombshell

In case you missed the big news, Massachusetts is set to ban commercial food waste from landfills by 2014. I included it in Friday’s post, but it deserves its own space.

The new regulations would herald a major change–a few cities have similar rules on the books, but no state does. The ruling would prompt businesses and commercial kitchens to approach food differently, hastening food waste reduction.

And the news gets even better–there are plans to expand the ban to household food waste by 2020.

Before this change occurs, the composting and biogas infrastructure need work. But a guaranteed flow of food waste business–an additional 350,000 tons of clams, cranberries, etc. per year–should prompt new facilities.

There have been a few expressions of concern, mostly on the cost for restaurants. While that’s to be expected, this should be a universal (or global) win. Given the expensive Mass. landfill rates of $60-90 per ton (national average is $45), finding alternative uses for food should be cheaper, in addition to environmentally preferable.

One thing that remains a mystery–is this a done deal? Or can lawmakers screw it up? The Globe article indicates the former. Let’s hope so!

May 7, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Energy, Environment, Restaurant, Waste Stream | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

This Just In: Massachusetts is planning to ban commercial food waste from landfills. That means large restaurants, hospitals, universities and other large generators would have to compost or create energy with their waste. The ban, likely to go into effect in 2014, would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

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Chuck Schumer knows that anaerobic digestion is a ‘game changer.’ He cut the ribbon at the opening of a New York biogas facility to turn manure and food waste into energy.

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Next door, Connecticut is beginning to focus on extracting energy from its food waste.

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Eating more of every animal–it’s the green thing to do.

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Here’s a decent guideline for supermarkets–a recent audit found that 59% of an Illinois Whole Foods trash was compostable.

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Finally, this piece has some good advice on how restaurants can become more sustainable, including keeping a better eye on waste (scroll to the bottom).

May 4, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Restaurant, Supermarket, Waste Stream | Comments closed

Sensing a Problem II

There’s something in the air at Boston-area universities. The smell of rotten fruit, perhaps?

Last week I wrote about a Tufts project to embed scannable, edible patches on food items to communicate bacteria levels. Now comes word of an M.I.T. project to help retailers know when food is ripening:

The new sensors, described in the journal Angewandte Chemie, can detect tiny amounts of ethylene, a gas that promotes ripening in plants. Swager envisions the inexpensive sensors attached to cardboard boxes of produce and scanned with a handheld device that would reveal the contents’ ripeness. That way, grocers would know when to put certain items on sale to move them before they get too ripe.

These ethylene sensors could be a useful idea for a supermarket industry that loses about 10% of its fresh fruits annually. Especially given that the supermarket industry is now contemplating how to reduce its food waste.

My guess is that these sensors will sink or swim on affordability. At about $1 for both the sensor that detects ethylene levels and the RFID chip to communicate them, I’d say they’re on the right track.

(HT Treehugger)

May 3, 2012 | Posted in Supermarket, Technology | Comments closed

Putting Food In Its Place

One of the main reasons we waste food is that we don’t know what we have on hand. That’s why  storing food in clear containers is so important.

Another way I’ve been avoiding waste lately has been by using this:

I know what you’re thinking: ‘How does a really, really shiny pepper help avoid waste?’ Guess what, folks–it’s not an actual red pepper. It’s a storage container for peppers!

When you’re using one of these, there’s no mistaking what’s inside. (Unless, that is, it’s a yellow pepper!)  When I see this container in the fridge, I know that I have pepper waiting to be used.

(And no, there isn’t another pepper inside of that one.)

May 1, 2012 | Posted in Household, Personal | Comments closed

Friday Buffet

Korea may be onto something with their trash reduction strategy–using (RFID) electronic chips to help users pay for what they throw!

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The food safety experts at Consumer Reports weigh in on what ketchup rates highest how long summer condiments stay good. In my opinion, they err a tad on the cautious side (two weeks for pickles?!).

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Indian abundance could mean more waste, as the crop could exceed storage space. This is especially galling in the nation with the most hungry people.

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There’s plenty afoot on May Day (aka Lei Day!), but it also marks the start of expanded curbside composting in Vancouver.

April 27, 2012 | Posted in Composting, Friday Buffet, International, Technology | Comments closed